In defence of being busy

  • Hannah Ploegstra
  • 20 October 2015

If I hear one more person—or myself—groan “I’m soooo busy”, I think I might explode. Or wilt. That gripe is getting really boring.

Worse, I fear we are groaning about something that’s good. People in the hospital aren’t busy. People with chronic pain or debilitating diseases have plenty of free time. People who are dead don’t have full schedules. But I’m not any of those things. I’m strong and healthy and full of life. What a huge blessing. And the fact that there are people around me who need me is a greater blessing still. Come to think of it, I’d much rather be busy than bored.

As far as I know, farmers don’t complain about being “too busy” during harvest time. And I’m pretty sure the local baker isn’t griping about a big order, even if it means he’ll be up with his hands in the flour at 2am. The person who got the lead role in the play doesn’t bemoan having four times more lines to learn than anyone else in the show. 

Lots of work is a good thing. God filled the earth with potential for life and growth, and then he gave us the role of managing and cultivating all that teeming energy. This requires wisdom, sweat, love, and even the occasional headache. But it’s an honour of the greatest magnitude (Ps 8:5-8).

Since busyness is a sign of health, growth, and life, we should stop saying “I’m so busy” as a complaint, and learn to say it as a remark of deep gratitude. But this will require a change in how we think, and possibly in how we spend our time.

  1. Luke 10:38-42: Let’s be honest. It’s possible to be “distracted with much serving” and “anxious and troubled about many things” even as you’re reading your Bible. It’s also possible to be devoted to Christ and tuned to his word in the middle of a busy week. The story of Martha and Mary is not a call to take off your apron and sit limp in the Bible spa; it’s a rebuke to get you to permanently tune your ears to the only voice that matters, and depend on it for your life’s order and purpose.
  2. 2 Thess 3:7-15; Titus 2:3-5: There’s a difference between being a busy person and being a busybody. A busybody is constantly revved up but going nowhere. That’s called idling. We’re bombarded with interesting ways to idle. Phones, Facebook, television… all have their place and can be used for good, but they can also become like little holes punched into the gas tank of your energy and time. Plug up those holes and you’ll be amazed at how busy you actually aren’t!
  3. Ps 86:11: David’s prayer, “unite my heart”, acknowledges our vulnerability to fragmentation. If your heart is continually united around God, whose plan and power keep you in action, then your life can develop into a unified path of praise and thanksgiving.
  4. Ps 90:9-12, 16-17; Eph 5:15-17: I’m here to defend busyness, but not all kinds of busyness. There are activities that fragment and distract us because they require us to devote ourselves to many fading things rather than to the only thing that matters: Christ. By definition, you can’t be ‘devoted’ to more than one thing (Matt 6:24). We need wisdom to plan our days in ways that will help us remain devoted to him.
  5. Ecc 3:9-22, 5:18-20; 1 Cor 15:16-19, 32, 58: Sometimes the simple fact is that too many of our activities are futile, and deep down inside we know it. Sadly, those who have no hope in eternity have to busy themselves with meaningless, fading pursuits that only make them happy here and now. But Jesus’ resurrection gives all work that is “in the Lord” meaning and purpose because it will last. Therefore, always abound in such work. Busy your calendar with it and fuel it with the gospel. Thank God for work to do and life to do it!

In the final analysis, the gospel is ultimately not about work, but about rest (Rom 4:4-8; Heb 4:8-11). But that’s just the point. Because of the work that has been done on our behalf—Christ’s work of reconciliation and of new creation—we are able to roll up our sleeves and step out in the work God has created us in Christ to do (Eph 2:10), knowing that the real work has already been done. We’re the happy labourers gathering the healthy and abundant harvest of a farmer who’s already done all the hard work. Gospel rest relieves our need to spin our wheels for God, and focuses our lives on the one who said:

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matt 11:28-30).